WuWei - Living a Life of Acceptance, Spontaneity and Presence
This article is written by Ben Conway, a good friend of mine whom I met at a KungFu school in China.
WuWei is a concept in Daoism that is tricky to explain. So bear with me as we watch this beautiful flower unfurling within your mind and heart. WuWei is translated as ‘non-action’ or ‘not doing’ and then commonly understood as ‘doing nothing’ or ‘inaction’. This however is misleading because WuWei is not doing nothing, nor is it particularly inactive. It is a state of being wherein you act spontaneously and with no attachment to where you are, what you are doing and what comes of it, while at the same time being completely present in your actions.
Daoist texts speak of the Sage who has realized oneness with the Dao and is capable of many great things by use of WuWei. They can teach without speaking, complete without doing, allow things to arise without interference, allow things leave without attachment, act without expectation and when their work is done they forget.
Now lets Reframe It
Imagine your average day, I’m sure you awaken to the buzzing of a particularly annoying alarm, crawl unwillingly out of bed into the shower. Wash yourself, get dressed, throw some food down the hatch and off to work you go. You enter your work place and are thinking, “I’m going to achieve A, B, C & D. Then I will have a cup of tea and go home”. I’m sure you can add more specific details, but your day continues.
Suddenly after lunch, your boss comes to you and lumps a whole new task on you, half way through B, “Hey! This came through and absolutely MUST be done today, put everything off and complete E!”. On the outside, you smile, nod and say nice things about how it should be no problem, on the inside however you’re raging about how your meddling boss has come and stepped on your careful plan for daily success. So now you will add this weight of annoyance to your every interaction for the rest of the day. Disappointment and perhaps fear that may linger because you couldn’t finish your careful plan and the people wanting C & D are now chasing you.
What if instead, we play the same scene with a generous helping of acceptance, spontaneity and presence.
Rewind and Press Play
So you arise to that definitive chime sounding from your bedside clock. Stretch your body and enjoy that once again you are awake and the day is laid out before you, filled with glorious potential. So you head to the shower and refresh your mind and body. Time to get dressed, prepare yourself some breakfast and head off to work. Arriving on time at your work space and see that today you have A, B, C & D to do. So you get cracking and before you know it, A is completed and you’re working away at B. Suddenly your boss appears at your shoulder, “Hey! This came through and absolutely MUST be done today, put everything off and complete E!”
Both your external and internal worlds are in agreement, as you tell your boss it will be done. So you set out and complete E, and with the time remaining put the finishing touches onto B before leaving work for home. C & D will just have to wait for another day and that is all you think on the matter.
What are the differences? A few, but I feel they are significant in how they are understood. Your boss could have come and ruined your day, but only if you hold onto your original plan as the only one. How can you possibly know if it wasn't meant to come your way? Can you accept the one true universal constant (I'm speaking about change, not annoying bosses)? You may have planned to do those four tasks, but can you find it within yourself to accept that you have done your best and any extra work will just have to await its proper time? Can you allow the spontaneous changes to occur in your sphere of existence and neither resist its arrival or become attached as it departs (or even potentially the opposite)?
"Can you accept the one true universal constant?"
I am neither a Sage, nor particularly enlightened but I feel that this is the right way for me and possibly many others. This kind of internal work is delightfully slow while being simultaneously carefree and requiring in constant attention.
Can you keep to your center and question your reactions? Why is it good? Why is it bad? Why do you want it? Why do you avoid it? What value does this add to my life? What would my life be like without it? Only you can understand what is right for you, Masters can help guide the way, but only through experience, not knowledge can you find your center. As someone I look up to in many many ways once told me “Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey”.
Benjamin Conway | 16th Generation Disciple of the Wuding San Feng Lineage | www.wudangaus.com